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Africa specialist Mark Pearson - 10 years at Zambezi Safaris
We thought it was about time Mark took a break from consulting… well 10 minutes to be exact to chat about his travels in search of Africa’s top spots.
I asked Mark which African countries he has visited, and the list is as long as your arm. He reeled them off…
Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique - pretty impressive! But when I suggested he tell me his favourite, he faltered - “that’s a difficult one.. ” he paused for a few seconds before answering “Zimbabwe” and then said “it’s so hard to pick one because they’re all so diverse. I’ll give you my top five, but these aren’t in any order”:
So here we have it, after 10 years in the African safari business, here’s Africa’s top spots
Zimbabwe - Mana Pools, canoeing, walking, world heritage sites, Hwange National Park is home to the Big 5 and large herds of elephant. A vast park, you can spend 6 nights in a different camp each night and get a different experience every day! Matobo is great too, lovely people, full of history of the British colonists and the wars fought. Zimbabwe also has the best guides in the business. Of course there’s Victoria Falls too - the best place in the world for white water rafting and the perfect hub to start or finish a safari. As one of Africa’s top spots Zimbabwe ticks all the boxes!
Botswana - for the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site, excellent canoeing and wildlife
Tanzania - for the migration, the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and the more remote Katavi and Mahale, not forgetting Zanzibar
Namibia - this has to be the best destination in Africa for a self drive option. It’s safe with stunning and diverse scenery from the dunes of Sossusvlei and wildlife of Etosha to the coast - there’s something for everyone.
Zambia - best for a walking safari, the guiding is excellent and there are some great camps too. National Parks such as the Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa and Kafue are all very different and unique
We couldn’t talk to Mark about Africa’s top spots without asking about his most memorable wildlife experience…
(I asked this rather tentatively, but I think we’re okay to publish…)
“I was in Botswana, on the Okavango Delta Explorer, sitting in a traditional mokoro with my guide. We were gently floating along the waters of the delta when, about 30 feet away from us were two sitatungas, very shy antelope who live in the reeds of the delta shallows. Sitatungas are rarely spotted so this was such a treat for me and something I’ll never forget.”
Mark then went on to add ” another occasion which springs to mind was having a herd of buffalo charge at us when we were at Mana Pools and jumping to safety atop a termite mound!” (Now you know why I asked the question tentatively!)
Best safari experience
Mark has some amazing recollections about his African safaris but probably the best are his tales from the riverbank…
Top #1 canoeing
“For me the best canoeing trip is the Tamarind Canoe Safari. The quality of guiding is excellent, you’re paddling your canoe dodging the hippos along the way and you get so close to elephant in the water. When not canoeing you have guided walks, this is a wonderful opportunity to spot buffalo and lion - it really is quite an adventure, everyone should give it a go!”
(Canoe safari by Adrian Bailey courtesy James Varden of Natureways)
Best of Africa’s top spots for a wild adventure
If you’re in search of an exciting African adventure Mark suggests the Mana Pools Explorer. A journey along the Zambezi River in Canadian canoes, paddling from Kariba to Mana Pools. Nights are spend in authentic camps on the river shore and days are a combination of canoeing and walking. All under the watchful eye of top professional guides. The wildlife and birding is outstanding!
“This has to be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! I joined a guided trek to Africa’s highest point - the summit of Kilimanjaro. I stayed the first night in Arusha and reached the summit on day 8… an amazing experience to watch the sunrise - you really are on to of the world!
Mark’s top destinations
- Cape Town
- Victoria Falls
- Ibo island Mozambique staying at Ibo Lodge- a fabulous spot if you’re into history and culture.
- Rustic Etendeka Camp in Namibia
- Nsefu camp, South Luangwa is fantastic wildlife
- Kenya’s Ngenche Camp on the Mara and Talek River - “I was lucky enough to see massive wildebeest herds crossing the river here.”
Top safari packing tips:
- Essential kit - hat
- Don’t travel without a camera - but don’t spend too much time behind it!
and back at home…
Mark recently married Jen and they live in a farmhouse in Devon. Between them they have 6 children, three grandchildren and Eva the black labrador - a new canine member of the Zambezi team and a regular in the office.
Mark’s looking forward to the next 10 years and seeing where his travels take him!